Reflecting Ruel – A Pro Tour: Austin Report

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Friday, October 23rd – Last week, Oli shared his prospective Pro Tour: Austin deck as the tournament began. He finally plumped for Hexmage Depths, and today he brings us the highs and lows from the Texan tournament floor.

So, Hexmage it would be. I eventually made my decision in the late afternoon the day before the Pro Tour, as I feared people metagaming against Dredge would have graveyard hate against Life, and also as I had tested the combo deck more and knew more about the matchups. Compared to the decklist I published last week, the sideboard went through a lot of changes. I first decided to add in Extirpate, and then I add an alternative kill of a pair of Great Sable Stag and a pair of Tombstalkers. I supposed they would be in every Hexmage deck’s board. They could possibly also help against the Blue control decks.

With only one negative matchup in the format, Next Level Blue, I felt extremely confident in my chances… Until I arrived at the site, and several people told me many Zoo decks would be running Ghost Quarter, a.k.a. the worst card to face, as it is the only answer to your combo that you can’t force them to discard. At the last minute, I decided to add three Pithing Needle to the sideboard; I couldn’t allow myself to lose to what would certainly be the most popular deck in the field. Here’s the version I ended up playing:

I tried the UB version a little, in which Vendilion Clique offers better chances versus control decks, but I want to be at least 50/50 against Zoo, and I still didn’t think the Cryptic Command decks would be very popular in this field, so I liked my GB choice.

Round 1 – Alessandro Deidda (Doran U)

In the first game I make him discard Path to Exile on the turn before I launch my combo. On the following turn, I draw Distress and cast it to reveal: another Path to Exile. I make my token, he doesn’t draw another Path, and game 1 is mine.


+1 Deathmark, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

-1 Grim Discovery, -1 Doom Blade

In the second game, I open with Thoughtseize and take his only removal spell. All he has left in hand is a Rhox War Monk, Birds of Paradise, and Noble Hierarch. Not so much to worry about, as I’ve Putrefy and a tutor to complete my combo. In his next two draws, he finds a pair of Tidehollow Scullers, and kills me before I draw another tutor or removal spell.

In game 3, this time, it will be hard for me to lose. I’ve emptied his entire hand; his board is Doran, Birds, Hierarch; and I’ve the combo on next turn. I also have Damnation in hand and three mana sources in play. I play one last discard spell, check he hasn’t drawn anything, and cast Hexmage. He untaps and attacks with Doran. I’d tend to think he is bluffing as Birds stayed home instead of attacking me but still, just in case, I block with Hexmage before making the token. At least if he has drawn Path, he will give me my fourth land for Damnation, and all we will have left is a Hexmage versus nothing. I don’t draw my land, and he plays Bant Charm. I pass, he attacks, I go down to five and he plays another Hierarch. One time land, even Dark Depths! … … … But I draw the second Damnation. I am playing 2 after all. I play Hexmage to chumpblock and buy myself another turn, but he untaps and draws Path to Exile


Round 2 – Nicholas Gulledge (UW Tron)

In the first game I make him discard everything he has and combo him off. I still offer him one turn to topdeck, but he declines to draw the Path.


+4 Extirpate, +1 Distress

-2 Damnation, -2 Wretched Banquet, -1 Grim Discovery

I choose to keep many removal spells, as he may have Meddling Mage in the sideboard.

Game 2 is pretty weird. I put on an early pressure with a Vampire Hexmage, but I can’t really play anything as he has infinite mana and Condescend in hand. We both keep on drawing lots of lands. He finds Gifts Ungiven at some point, stops the beatdown on three life, and starts recurring his graveyard without me being able to find any Extirpates.

Even though I missed Extirpate in game 2, I still cut one for another Wretched Banquet as I had confirmation in game 2 that he is running the Mage.

The third game is a lot longer. I get my combo quite quickly, but he gets a Platinum Angel just as fast. Three Chalice of the Void are on the board (0, 1, and 3), and I’m waiting for any of the my removal spells or tutors to get his 4/4 down, as a Hexmage I’ve resolved earlier will allow me, if needed, to remove the counters from the Chalice for 3. He draws Gifts and gets Meddling Mage and Vendilion Clique, which he tries and cast despite the Chalice. Meddling Mage forbids Damnation, and on the following turn I eventually draw Shred Memory, Transmute it for Doom Blade, and kill the Angel.


Round 3 – Richmond Tan (5C Zoo)

In game 1 my opening hand is the following: Fetchland, Snow-Covered Swamp, 2 Wretched Banquet, Doom Blade, Duress, Thoughtseize. A hand I should normally ship, as it has no part of the combo, nor a tutor to get there. However, after a certain number of years of play, you start being able to figure, just by seeing people, what kind of deck they are playing. And I’ve a huge feeling Richmond is running Zoo. No offense man, but pink sleeves and control? I doubt it.

I keep, and he opens with Kird Ape. Yeeees! Banquet, Banquet / Thoughtseize, and he already doesn’t have a hand anymore. On turn 5, I eventually combo off while being still over 10 life.


+1 Maelstrom Pulse, +1 Deathmark

-1 Shred Memory, -1 Beseech the Queen

I take out some tutors as they are often a little too slow on the draw in this matchup. No Needle here, as 5C Zoo shouldn’t be using the Ghost Quarters.

The second game is my best draw of the weekend, as I open with Thoughtseize, and follow with turn 2 Duress, combo.


In the Zoo matchup, if I had been on the play I’d have cut 2 Duress and 1 Thoughtseize for 3 Chalice of the Void, as the card stops Path to Exile and the one-mana guys, but is often off tempo on the draw and can’t even be imprinted on a Chrome Mox.

Round 4 Kuan Tian (Artifact combo)

His combo is slower than mine, and not so hard to disrupt. In order to help me, he also takes a couple of mulligans. I win the first one without much trouble.


+2 Pithing Needle, + 4 Extirpate, + 1 Distress, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

-2 Damnation, -2 Wretched Banquet, -2 Beseech the Queen, -1 Chrome Mox, -1 Grim Discovery

I keep in some removal spells for possible Meddling Mages, but he opens with Meddling / Tarmogoyf / Tarmogoyf, and my draw is not fast enough to stop his team.

Therefore, I decide to cut my Needles, as they are not really necessary in this matchup anyway. I replace them with Wretched Banquet and Deathmark.

In the third game, however, I could hardly be in a better situation. I have the combo and can make a 20/20 at any time. I have Overgrown Tomb, Urborg and Dark Depths in play, and my hand is Beseech the Queen, Duress, Putrefy, Maelstrom Pulse. He has one card I don’t know of, and already 3 Thopter Foundries and a Path to Exile in the graveyard when he passes. I then decide not to make the token.

There is a 6-7% chance he drew another Path to Exile, in which case he’s back in the game. If I just untap, I can draw either a land -in which case I can go Beseech plus Extirpate, or Duress plus Beseech, and cast Extirpate on the next turn – or I can draw a discard spell, in which case the situation will be the exact same in a turn. And those are about 60% of my draws, when he’s aiming for his fourth Foundry, which would only be a very little problem (I still have Putrefy and Pulse in hand).

With that play it’s hard to calculate my odds exactly, but I’m pretty sure they’re over 95%.

I draw another Beseech, play one of them, go for Extirpate, and pass. He draws his fourth Foundry, makes 5 tokens, goes on 21, and it’s my turn again. Luckily, he has only revived one of his two Sword of the Meek. Still no land, I can’t play Extirpate yet, so I just go for Putrefy on the last Foundry. As he knows Path is soon to be removed, he casts it on my Hexmage to at least keep me from getting a land, and adds Tarmogoyf to the team. I can now win in two turns just by casting Pulse on the Tokens, but I still don’t have a land. He adds Baneslayer Angel. Still no land.

As he figures he’s winning the race, he’s now beating me down, forcing me to play consecutive Banquets on tokens. Luckily, when I eventually find my third land (another two turns from there), I am barely alive because he has forgotten to reanimate his second Sword. The board now is Marit Lage versus Tarmogoyf, and life 3 to 26. He draws a second Tarmogoyf, I draw a blank, and he attacks for the win.

I came out of this game with no idea how I had lost. The fact that I waited before launching the combo was the right play, as his options to win were basically to draw a one out of 50 cards (Muddle wouldn’t have mattered, as he wouldn’t have gone to more than 20 life), and then win 7 or 8 heads or tails in a row. Still, I was now in a very unpleasant position, with the necessity to win three of the next four matches to make it into Day 2.

Round 5 – Yoshitaka Nakano (Dredge)

In the first game, I take a mulligan and keep a Duress, Shred Memory, Banquet, three land hand. Not dreamy, except that I don’t know yet I’m facing my Transmute card’s favorite matchup. On turn 4, I play it and remove the Zealot he’s targeting with Dread Return, along with his two Bridge From Belows and the only Dredge card in his graveyard: Life from the Loam. However, I’m unable to find any part of the combo, and I end up dying to his Bloodghast / Narcomoeba beatdown squad.

+ 4 Extirpate, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

-2 Damnation, -2 Putrefy, -1 Grim Discovery

Now that Extirpates are in, I feel a lot more comfortable about the matchup. I chose to keep removal to kill Crabs and Magus, and to keep Stinkweed Imp from destroying my combo, but the games don’t go as planned. Discard spells, Banquet on Magus, and Shred Memory keep him from comboing until turn 7, but by then, I still haven’t found Hexmage, Extirpate, or a tutor. I’ll need to go 3-0 in the first draft portion.


To round out my experience with this deck, I can say it is not to blame for what happened in those five rounds. With the matchups I had, I’m convinced I should have gone 4-1. This was just a day in which my opponents would topdeck more than usual, and such days happen. I just hope I’ll be able to 3-0 my draft pod in order to advance to Day 2.

Pod 42
Dekuan Watson
Tommy Ashton
Brian Boss
Joshua Wludyka
Pedro Carvalho
Olivier Ruel
Ari Lax
Carlos Martinez Silhy

The first good news? No big names at the table. The second good news? The guy seated to my left told me the online player who insulted and threatened me for a whole match (details here) told him last week that he had been suspended from the DCI. This information yet to be confirmed, but it did make me feel very good to hear that unsportsmanlike behavior can be sanctioned very severely, even when it comes from behind a computer, and that this kind of cowardly and disrespectful behavior can be punished.

And finally, the third good news? The draft starts really well. For the first pick, I take Halo Hunter over Gatekeeper of Malakir, and then I cut all the Black in order to make it clear to my left neighbor that Black is not open at all. I then receive a pick 7 Goblin Guide. About this card – it’s very, very good. In such an aggro format, it’s about as good as Bladetusk Boar, even better if you are very aggressive. Then something very strange happened. From then on, I received almost no Black cards. My packs 2 and 3 both had decent Red cards, but nothing brilliant. My most interesting pick was pack 3 pick2, when I got to chose between Electropotence, a second Hellfire Mongrel, and a second Goblin Shortcutter. As I already had a Zektar Shrine Expedition, I went with the first, and ended up with a very decent deck:

2 Akoum Refuge
8 Swamp
7 Mountain
1 Teetering Peaks
1 Guul Draz Vampire
1 Vampire Lacerator
1 Goblin Guide
1 Hedron Scrabbler
1 Goblin Shortcutter
1 Surrakar Marauder
1 Blood Seeker
1 Gatekeeper of Malakir
1 Hellfire Mongrel
1 Mindless Null
1 Torch Slinger
1 Shatterskull Giant
1 Bladetusk Boar
1 Tuktuk Grunts
1 Halo Hunter
1 Burst Lightning
1 Quest for the Gravelord
2 Zektar Shrine Expedition
1 Slaughter Cry
1 Electropotence
1 Inferno Trap

Mindless Null and Hedron Scrabbler are nothing more than fillers, but at least they are guys and they put on some pressure. The deck is probably 2-1 or worse, and making it to Day 2 would be difficult.

Round 6: Pedro Carvalho (GB)

One thing strikes me immediately: Pedro has many habits of an inexperienced player. He has no sleeves, he shuffles his cards so they line up in both directions, and he seems very nervous. The impression remains as the game starts, as he keeps on forgetting Blood Seeker damage, which I let him to deal to me when he remembers before the end of my turn. While I’m still struggling to get a Red source, he casts Oracle of Mul Daya. He then reveals a land, plays it. I lose that game as I’m unable to deal with his 2/2, but take the next one. In game 3, he destroys me with a Mind Sludge for 4 and kicks me out of Day 2. What do I have left? Two rounds for pride, and maybe an additional pro point.


Round 7: Ari Lax

Ari was seated on my right during the draft, and I quickly understand where the Black went. Third pick Halo Hunter surely encouraged him to consider going with the Swamps. As he has 15 points this season, he is also playing for the extra pro point. Unfortunately for him, he draws pretty badly both games. This is not exactly how I was intending on regaining some pride and beating one of the nicest guys I’ve faced today, but three points are three points.


Round 8: Brian Boss

How can I be paired up when there are only two 2-0 players at the table? Simple, there have been four drops, and I faced the other 1-1 guy in the pod in round 6. My chance to make it to top 200 is low anyway, so I intend on conceding, but I still want to play out to end this PT on a satisfying touch. I’ll give him the win later on if needed. In game 1 my draws are quite good, but his are unreal. His White deck just seems like a Block Constructed build.

“Your deck seems a lot better than the two I’ve played against so far,” he says. “Both guys were running Mindless Null!”
“Well, that’s three of us running it…”

In game 2 I open with a very strong hand but only two lands, and attack with Goblin Guide. On turn 4, I was still sat behind my two lands when he missed revealing a land for the fourth time.

“Must be nice having a 2/2 haste with no default,” he said. Was he actually complaining despite kicking my ass because I was land-screwed? I was now wondering if I would concede. But the question wouldn’t come up, as my deck still didn’t feel like helping me out. No regrets on that match anyway, as his deck was a true 3-0.

Concerning the Extended deck: I would definitely cut the Grim Discovery, which, even though it’s rarely bad and can search for the combo when it has been stopped, takes two to be searched for anyway, and is only relevant versus Zoo and the mirror. I’d probably run the third Distress instead. Concerning the sideboard, you definitely have to cut the Stags. I thought Hexmage would be mostly GB, but the UB version was a lot more popular and has other ways to win. A specific kill is not needed if you keep the removal in, as 4 Extirpate and your own combo should stop them. You can eventually deck them if you have enough time for that.

My new sideboard would be:

4 Chalice of the Void
2 Pithing Needle
4 Extirpate
3 Ravenous Trap
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Deathmark

And eventually, as it’s the only Tier 1 matchup I didn’t face in the PT, here are the Ins & Outs versus Hypergenesis:

+ 4 Chalice of the Void, + 4 Extirpate
-3 Wretched Banquet, -2 Damnation, -1 Doom Blade, -2 Putrefy

Have a great weekend!